Elizabeth Warren ended her presidential campaign on Thursday after concluding she had no realistic path to the Democratic nomination, leaving behind a two-man battle between former Vice President Joe Biden and U.S Senator Bernie Sanders.
Warren, a liberal senator who won plaudits for her robust policy plans and focused her campaign on fighting the corrupting influence of money on politics, had finished well behind the two front-runners on Tuesday in 14 states across the country, including her home state of Massachusetts.
Her exit ensures that what was once hailed as the most diverse field of candidates in U.S. history has narrowed to a race between two white, septuagenarian men for the right to face Republican President Donald Trump in November.
Warren, who still commands a loyal base of supporters, did not immediately endorse either of her rivals, saying she would decide at a later time whether to do so. She has spoken with both front-runners since Tuesday's votes.
Biden, a 77-year-old moderate, and Sanders, a 78-year-old liberal from Vermont, have emerged as the standard-bearers for the two major wings of the Democratic Party.
Outside her home in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on Thursday, Warren spoke bluntly about her failure to find a middle ground between the party's dueling factions.
"I was told when I first got into this, there are two lanes," she said. "I thought it was possible that wasn't the case, and there was more room to run a different kind of campaign. Apparently that wasn't the case."
The former bankruptcy law professor, who was largely responsible for creating the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) while still an academic, had emerged as a top contender last fall, arguing she could serve as a consensus candidate for both progressives and centrists.
While Warren is more closely aligned ideologically with Sanders, she may conclude that backing Biden - who surged to the lead by winning 10 of the 14 Super Tuesday states - is better positioned to help her advance her policy priorities.
A Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Thursday had Biden with a 10 percentage-point lead among Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents.
The friendship between Warren and Sanders also developed cracks during the campaign. In January, Warren accused Sanders of calling her a "liar" after a debate in which he denied her allegation that he had told her a woman could not beat Trump.
Some polls have shown her supporters almost evenly split between Biden and Sanders when asked to pick their second-favorite candidate.
Both former rivals reached our to her supporters: Biden called Warren the "fiercest of fighters" on Twitter, while Sanders praised her work on women's rights, corruption and healthcare before making a pitch to her backers.
"Today I would simply say to her supporters, of whom there are millions: We are opening the door to you, we would love you to come on board," he said in Burlington, Vermont.
'VICIOUS CYCLE' ON ELECTABILITY
The vague notion of "electability," a buzzword on the campaign trail as Democrats prioritized defeating Trump over all other concerns, seemed especially damaging for Warren and other non-white male candidates.
"The general narrative was that the women might be too risky, and I think there were people who heard that enough that it started showing up in polling ... and becomes a vicious cycle that was hard to break out of," said Christina Reynolds, vice president of communications at EMILY's List, which works to elect women supporting abortion rights and had endorsed Warren.
Asked on Thursday about the role that gender played in the campaign, Warren said it was a tricky issue for female candidates to address.
"That is the trap question for every woman," she said. "If you say, 'Yeah, there was sexism in this race,' everyone says, 'Whiner!' If you say, 'No, there was no sexism,' about a bazillion women say, 'What planet do you live on?'"
In Washington, Democratic U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she believes the country is ready for a woman president but said misogyny still plays a role.
"Every time I get introduced as the most powerful woman or whatever, I almost cry because I think - I wish that were not true," she said.
BIDEN HITS SANDERS
Meanwhile, Biden and Sanders continued to step up attacks on each other, signaling a bruising battle to come as the race turns next to six states stretching from Mississippi to Washington state, which hold nominating contests on March 10.
Sanders blamed the "establishment" and corporate interests for his losses in 10 of the 14 states that voted on Tuesday, a charge Biden called "ridiculous."
"You got beaten by overwhelming support I have from the African-American community, Bernie," Biden told NBC's "Today" show on Thursday. "You got beaten because of suburban women, Bernie. You got beaten because of the middle-class, hardworking folks out there, Bernie."